Response to Tieleman, Anton and Plecas on proportional representation

15Tieleman’s secret stash of anti-PR arguments revealed

In their latest column, Bill Tieleman, Suzanne Anton and Bob Plecas claim that proportional representation would necessarily result in many MLAs being “appointed from the party list”; such MLAs, they allege, “would have no geographic riding, no constituents and no voter accountability.” These claims are demonstrably false.

While it is no doubt possible to design a proportional electoral system with these characteristics, there is no reason why a proportional electoral system must have these characteristics. As a matter of fact, most do not. For one, countries with proportional electoral systems are usually divided into a number of multi-member electoral districts. Others use a mix of single- and multi-member districts. Second, in countries that use the single transferable vote or so-called “open lists” to elect representatives in the multi-member constituencies, voters have at least as much control over which candidates from their preferred party are ultimately chosen for office as they do under our current electoral system. And one might even argue that STV and open lists actually give voters more control than they have under the status quo; after all, under our current system, each party can only present voters with one candidate in each electoral district, whereas these forms of PR allows voters to register preferences for different candidates from the same party.

The authors also repeat the canard that proportional representation leads to long delays in government formation following an election. While there have been a handful of news-making cases where the process takes a very long time, such cases are newsworthy precisely because they are unusual. In fact, depending on the circumstances under which a new government must be formed, the average duration ranges from about two weeks to a month. As BC recently proved, with a clear caretaker convention in place and the ongoing support of a professional public service, such delays are nothing to worry about.

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